Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity has started phase one of an ambitious project to build 98 homes on a 20-acre property on Old Haywood Road in West Asheville.

This development called New Heights includes single family and town homes, a portion of which are designated for people who are 55 years of age and older, said Ariane Kjellquist, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity communications director.

Including townhomes in the project allows the charitable organization to build more residences, she said.

While most of the townhomes in the project are designed as multi-level, units built for aging-in-place residents will be single level with extra-wide door entrances that can accommodate wheelchairs. The majority of the homes in New Heights will have two-to-four bedrooms. Townhomes built for older residents will have one bedroom plus an alcove, according to the plan.

People selected for Habitat home ownership are required to have incomes that are 40 to 80 percent of the area median income. This maximum amount recently has been increased by 10% to make the Habitat program more accessible for local residents seeking affordable homes, Kjellquist noted.

Other requirements for consideration by Asheville Area Habitat are residency in Buncombe County for 12 months, exhibiting a need for housing and a willingness to partner with the organization.

Asheville Area Habitat is the mortgage originator and offers no-interest loans that require no down payment on homes, Kjellquist noted.

A typical monthly mortgage payment for a three-bedroom home is between $650 and $700, she added.

A cornerstone of the Habitat for Humanity program is the “sweat equity” that homeowners contribute to construction of their homes. Homeowners work alongside Habitat crews to help build their homes, as well as contributing to the organization in other ways.

“This is very integral to the Habitat model,” Kjellquist said.

A minimum of 200 hours is typically required of Habitat homeowners — an amount that can include time volunteering at Habitat ReStore shops, Kjellquist explained.

Homeowners also participate in 40 hours of classroom time to learn skills needed for successful ownership.

“We have a whole homeowner curriculum,” Kjellquist said.

Asheville Area Habitat has a combination of funding sources to purchase land and build homes, which includes contributions from corporations and businesses and the local faith community.

Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community is a primary supporter of the New Heights project with aging-in-place homes, Kjellquist said.

The organization also has its own sustainable revenue resource from its ReStore shops in Asheville and Weaverville, which sells used home furnishings and materials, she noted.

While homes are sold at the cost to build them, they are appraised before homeowners acquire them, Kjellquist said. If a home appraises at $60,000 more than its sale price, that amount would be due to Habitat if a homeowner decides to sell it, she pointed out.

Habitat construction crews started on the New Heights project earlier this year while also finishing homes in its Curry Court development in Candler — its first area project to include town homes.

With construction crews and volunteers restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic, available resources were reallocated as much as possible, Kjellquist said.

And the Habitat home repair program was put on hold temporarily.

“We did not do home repairs for four months,” she said.

About Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1983 as the first Habitat affiliate in North Carolina.

Asheville Area Habitat is an independent affiliate of the ecumenical Christian housing ministry, Habitat for Humanity International, which welcomes people of all faiths, ethnicity, sexuality, and backgrounds to its organization and communities, according to information on its website.

For more information about Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity and how to become involved, visit the website at www.ashevillehabitat.org.

For specific questions about the organization’s home ownership program, send an email to apply@ashevillehabitat.org or call 828-554-3032.

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